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The Barmy Army guide to the Netherlands

England’s brilliant victory in the first New Zealand Test ensured the international summer of cricket got off to the best possible start but it will soon be time to turn our attention to the white-ball game and the eagerly awaited Netherlands tour.

It is, of course, the first time the Three Lions have toured the country and we are very excited that so many Barmy Army members will be heading to roar on Eoin Morgan’s side in the three-match ODI series.

To make sure everyone going gets the most out of their trip and with the help of one of our Dutch members Kate, we’ve put together a guide for the travelling faithful…

Schedule 

17th June – 1st ODI @ the VRA Ground, 10.30am start local time

19th June – 2nd ODI @ the VRA Ground, 10.30am start local time

21st June – 3rd ODI @ the VRA Ground, 10.30am start local time

The VRA Ground and how to get there 

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The picturesque VRA Ground will host all three ODIs. It may be known as the Amsterdamse Bos (Amsterdam Woods) but it is located in the Amsterdam-adjacent city of Amstelveen.

There aren’t stands so temporary ones will be in place and you shouldn’t expect to be able to order pints because the Dutch just don’t drink them. Instead, they prefer vaasjes (330ml) and fluitjes (220ml).

It’ll likely only be lager so don’t expect cider or craft beers either but beware it’ll likely be stronger than you’re used to in the UK.

We are reliably informed that it’s best not to drive and with that in mind, the best ways to get to the ground are:

  • Bike – Hire one almost anywhere (as long as you don’t intend on getting too drunk)
  • Bus – The 347 and 357 both start at Elandsgracht Bus Station in Amsterdam and can be picked up in the other direction from Amstelveen while the 348 and 358 start at Amsterdam Zuid Station again going to Amstelveen. The ground’s stop is Kalfjeslaan. From the stop, cross over the road if coming from Amsterdam and walk into the woods. The buses are very clean (no eating allowed), have WiFi and USB ports, and are very reliable and cheap. You can pay for a day ticket in advance at the ticket machines or by PIN on the bus. If you have an OV chipkaart (public transport card) you can check in and out with that. Just load it up when need be.
  • Metro & tram – The nearest stop, Uilenstede, is less than 1km away and is served by the number 5 tram and metro 25. From there, head directly west until you pick up the main road, Amstelveenseweg, and walk into the woods.
  • Walk – If you’re staying close by then this is a great option but make sure to avoid the bike path from the Olympic stadium, which is not for pedestrians.
  • Uber/Taxi – More expensive and not necessary given the other options available. Drivers will not know the VRA Ground so ask for National Hockey Stadium, which is next door.

The 1890 is the only bar close to the ground. It’s a traditional Dutch establishment with plenty of good beers and simple food but you’ll likely have to book as it’s popular with the locals.

That said, the Albina is a 20 minute walk south west of the ground on Amsterdamseweg while in Amstelveen the Oude Dorp (Old Village) is packed full of good places to eat and drink.

Cricket in the Netherlands 

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Cricket isn’t huge in the Netherlands, it’s not even mid-size. It’s teeny tiny. Mention cricket to Dutch nationals, who have been born into football and hockey and very few will know what you’re talking about.

Thankfully the minority with the help of a smattering of first and second-generation ex-pats means that there is cricket played in the Netherlands at a competitive level.

We have a 50-over league and T20 tournament. The Topklasse (top division) 50-over standard is tantamount to minor counties in England. Most clubs play on matting and there are just a total of 7 grass wickets in the entire country. One club in Topklasse, HBS play on a 100% artificial field.

The National men’s team currently (as of 1st March 2022) lie 11th in the ICC ODI rankings, above Ireland, Scotland and Zimbabwe while the women’s team are 20th in the ICC T20I rankings.

Men’s head coach Ryan Campbell (ex Australia) rarely has all qualified players available for selection as many play county cricket. It’s a contentious point as the ICC could step in and force the counties to release players for ICC games but it doesn’t happen.

What to do when you’re not at the cricket?

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The best thing to do is just wander and enjoy the city but don’t forget to keep looking up to appreciate the architecture.

Everyone seems to enjoy a boat trip. The big commercial ones aren’t the best as you don’t see the real heart of the city. The smaller boats can maneuver around the canals better and you see so much more. If you can get a group together, hire a boat (and captain) privately and you’ll benefit from seeing the best bits!

De Negen Straatjes (the 9 streets) in Jordaan is a particularly good area to walk around with lots of small, interesting shops and some great cafes and bars.

Amsterdam is known for its museums so if you fancy a bit of culture, here are a few that we’d recommend:

  • The Canal Museum (Grachtenmuseum) – On Herengracht 386. Immerse yourself in the history of the city with an insightful audio tour. The city is basically built on water and is below sea level. Fascinating stuff.
  • My Lord in The Attic – Situated bang in the middle of the Red Light District (Oudezijds Voorburgwal 38-40) is a hidden church, built in the times of William Of Orange when catholicism was banned. The story of it is quite amazing.
  • The Rijksmuseum – Museumplein is dominated by the simply stunning architecture of the Rijksmuseum. The famous “Nachtwacht” (Nightwatch) is housed in the museum, which you can spend anywhere between 2 hours and 6 hours in. The bike lane that goes through the centre of the museum is unique.
  • The Van Gogh museum (start from the top and work yourself down to avoid the crowds) & Stedelijk Museum (modern art, from the outside it looks like a sink) – Also on Museumplein depending on your taste.
  • The Anne Frank House – Not as good as it used to be as the whole outside has been modernised and you don’t get the feeling of the house until you are inside. It is worth it for the historical significance though.
  • The Heineken Museum – If you really have to go, it is in De Pijp but when you read that you get two free drinks remember not to expect pints.
  • The Hermitage – Another beautiful building on the Amstel. Check out what exhibitions are there.

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If you’re looking for some liquid refreshment, there really are thousands of fantastic bars, cafes, and restaurants to choose from.

Dam Square is overpriced and overrated so it’s often best to just explore your local area. If you are insistent on sticking to The Red Light or Leidseplein then Cafe Corso on Ouderzijds Achterburgwal is a proper pub and on Leidseplein, Dan Murphy’s is one of the better Irish Bars.

The best and most traditional Irish Bar is Mulligans, Amstel 100. It serves better Guinness than you get in Ireland, and has great live music 5 nights a week, but do not expect to see football matches shown on big screens. If that is really what you want then go to O’Reilly’s on Paleisstraat.

You’ll be spoilt for choice in terms of places to eat. Febo is the ultra fast food place where you get your hot food out of a vending machine – it must be tried!

Pepe Nero (Eerste Oosterparkstraat) and Primi (Van Der Hoopstraat) are 2 brilliant Italian places. Head to China Town (Zeedijk) to the institution which is Nam Kee or a bit more upmarket, A-fusion.

Sea Palace on the water not far from Central Station is a favourite but it is huge. Mr. Sam near the Olympic Stadium is good and convenient for after the cricket.

The Dutch have a few traditional dishes and the only one you must try is “bitterballen”, which can only be described as something deep fried in bread crumbs. Dip them in the mustard mayonnaise but watch out you don’t burn your mouth. An absolute must with a cold beer. Every Dutch bar serves them.

For those with a bigger budget, fine dining is plentiful. A favourite is De Kas in the east (on Kamerlingh Onneslaan) where there is no menu, just eat their organic, homegrown food in a greenhouse. The Okura Hotel in Rivierenbburt (Ferdinand Bolstraat) has 3 world-class restaurants, Ciel Bleu (2 Michelin Stars), Yamazato (1 star) the Teppanyaki restaurant and the sushi bar are all outstanding but very expensive.

Bicycles 

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Such is the importance they hold in Dutch society, we’ve given bicyles their own section. As said above, they can be hired from just about everywhere and really are the best way to get around (even to the VRA Ground).

In parts of Amsterdam, the bike lanes (fietspad) can be wider than the roads. Bicylces rule and the motorists know it. Give way to bicycles at all times whether you’re in a car or a pedestrian. When crossing the road, look both ways, if you realise you’re in the middle of a bike lane, just stop, the cyclists will go around you, and probably swear at you too but that’s normal.

It can be absolute carnage in rush hour (8-9am & 5-6pm) so beware of those times. Make sure you never cycle on the pavements and keep to the right at all times.

A word on diversity 

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The Dutch are known for being very liberal. Especially in Amsterdam, where there is an attitude of anything goes. It is a multi-cultural, multi-racial society and everyone accepts everyone else as they are.

We’re not just talking about race, religion, sexuality, or gender but in Amsterdam, it’s OK to be weird. A lot of characters have disappeared from our streets which is very sad but if you see the guy roller-blading in his speedos, the fully grown man who dresses like a baby, the bloke who walks around with a bird on his head, or the woman with dreadlocks dancing to imaginary music, then just smile and move on.

Needless to say that any type of hate-speak against any individual will not be tolerated. You are a guest in this wonderful country, enjoy it and respect everyone who lives here.

Remember, you’re part of Eoin Morgan’s Barmy Army!